Posted by: genevievetaylor | June 6, 2008

Why do sustainability advocates focus on the double, and not the triple, bottom line?

So, why do change agents for sustainability so naturally focus on planet and profit, but not people?

Lets go back to our “people, planet, profit” definition. The “triple bottom-line” is where we maximize our human capital (people), natural capital (planet), and financial capital (profit.)

As an organizational change agent, it is easy for me to give the double Yes!” Yes! I can see the natural capital in my organization – I use resources (energy, paper, water, etc.). And Yes! I am very clear about what the financial capital is; my bottom-line, my cash flow, my profit, my access to more funding.

But to give a triple yes – well, we are more likely to get a single “Huh?”.  Likely with the “huh” will come a blank stare… how do we get people to be more sustainable?

It gets very, very fuzzy when we start to think about the “people” part of the triple bottom line.

When you start considering “People”, you start having to examine how behavior impacts a company; how leadership affects the way that change initiatives are received; how old dysfunctions impact a company’s ability to work.

Few companies actually build all three “legs of the stool” – because it is hard. But, maybe, you ask, eco-efficiency is enough!  Maybe we don’t really NEED the triple bottom line!

A great question – we will look into that question next time.

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